I will get to the news round up in a second. However, going into this game UCLA had only four losses at home under Steve Alford. Last night's 14 point 89-75 defeat was the largest loss at home for UCLA in the Alford era (the previous biggest was 13 to #9 Gonzaga last season). It was also the first loss to USC by an Alford coached team:
The last five times the UCLA men's basketball team faced USC, it won by an average of 19.6 points. On Wednesday night, the Bruins stared up at an 18-point hole ‑ at halftime. They never climbed back.
Steve Alford's turbulent third season tilted downward again in an 89-75 loss at Pauley Pavilion, his first stumble against the Trojans in six tries.
UCLA (11-7, 2-3) had suffered its share of ugly losses before, and rebounded with Sweet 16 runs in each of the past two seasons. Up until now, USC had been the one Pac-12 team against whom Alford held a perfect record, a team that he had lorded over with double-digit wins.
That's what made this loss feel different. It wasn't like falling to Monmouth or Wake Forest, or the two-game lull at Washington and Washington State. There were extenuating factors to consider then: a surprise in the season opener, tough road environments.
However, this loss was not a first in other sense, it was part of a continuing trend. As Steve Alford stated (emphasis mine):
We just can't figure out a way to guard. Until we defend, we're going to continue to be on the short end a lot. We out-scored Arizona and we out-scored Arizona State, but we can't keep giving up scores in the 80's and 70's. We pick a night where Bryce [Alford] and Isaac [Hamilton] had bad shooting nights; both bigs were really good inside, but we just can't overcome it because we don't guard. You're not always going to shoot the ball well. We didn't shoot it bad, we shot 44 percent, but we didn't get to the free-throw line; we got killed there. I thought we valued the ball well, I thought we did a lot of good things, but when we have tough shooting nights it's going to be hard on us because we're so poor defensively."
Steve Alford has historically been reluctant to make any changes to his lineup or rotation other than from injury or suspension. Yet now he is going to consider them as needed for defense:
On what the team needs to do to fix the defense...
"I guess we just have to keep working. We have GG [Gyorgy Goloman] back now and we needed to get him through this game with just a couple of minutes. We have to get him in the mix. One thing Alex Olesinski does is play hard, so maybe he gets in the mix, we might have to make some changes. From that standpoint, it's just kind of who plays because we're 18 games in and we're just not guarding anyone. We have to find combinations that will defend."
This one is easy. Bench Bryce who is the worst defender and go away from big-big with Bolden as the starting four.
As the Intern wrote:
All game, USC found yawning holes in UCLA's transition defense. Midway through the first half it ran out to a 13-0 run. When the Trojans made the last basket of the half, their lead had swelled to 18.
USC played faster and smarter. UCLA's three-point defense was exposed. USC, which leads the conference in three-pointers made, added another nine, on 20 attempts.
It was interesting that Steve Alford lost his temper in this game and was hoarse in the post-game presser. AS the OCR writes:
The Bruins grew flustered. Late in the first half, Alford was whistled for a technical foul, his first of the season.
Of course being "Trogans" SC even when playing better basketball have to show they lack class:
Late in the first half, Prince Ali caught an outlet pass from Alford, took a couple drills toward the basket and went up to dunk before a hard foul by freshman Bennie Boatwright.
Boatwright received a flagrant-1 foul, and students responded by chanting an expletive as the replay was shown on the video board.
There were some good things. The return of GG and the play of Tony Parker.
In the opening minutes of the second half, USC extended its lead to 21. Then UCLA mounted a rally. The Bruins pounded the ball inside to Parker and went on a 10-0 run. With more than 13 minutes left, Parker muscled in a layup to cut the lead to 10. The crowd came alive again. Parker flexed at midcourt. USC called timeout.
The Trojans halted the run, momentarily, but UCLA returned, again and again, to Parker. His dunk with about five minutes remaining shrunk USC's lead to single digits
If Parker was the hero of the game on offense for UCLA, Bryce was the goat. After UCLA cut the USC lead to 9, he put up two wild shots. That ended the slim chance of a comeback. Causing Jack Wang to conclude:
So often this season, point guard Bryce Alford has been the best barometer for team performance ‑ averaging 47.6 percent in 11 wins, but 28 percent in six losses. He walked into the locker room having made two of seven shots.
However, this loss was not about Just SC or a player. It was a season long problem exposed again. It will be interesting to watch what Steve Alford does but at least he admits this loss was on all the Defense.
We couldn't take away a thing. The things we game planned and the things that we tried to take away, we just couldn't take anything away because of our defense. That's been our Achilles heel all year. Our losses other than one, the majority of our losses are because we can't guard.
Now fix it Steve.